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Defending life from the moment of conception

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News, 30 August 2001

30 August 2001

30 August 2001 A British government watchdog has attacked a section of the 1967 Abortion Act as discriminatory. The Disability Rights Commission (DRC), which was set up by the government last year to advise on ways to combat discrimination against the disabled, issued a statement last week criticising section 1(1)d of the Act (as amended in 1990) which allows unborn babies with disabilities to be aborted up to birth. Most abortions are limited to 24 weeks. The DRC described the section as "offensive" and "incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally". Voice for Choice, a pro-abortion group, said that the DRC statement was "an attack on the rights of women to make a choice." [BBC News online, 21 August] The US administration of President George W Bush has signalled its intention to reject the inclusion of any pro-abortion language in the final document of next month's UN conference on children. Richard Boucher, a spokesman for the US state department, said that the US would send a high-level delegation which would head off any attempt to include reference to abortion counselling or services for adolescents. [Washington Post and Reuters, via Pro-Life Infonet, 28 August] The US Catholic bishops have launched an anti-abortion advertising campaign which asks: "Have we gone too far?" The advertisements have been prompted by opinion polls which suggest that most Americans are uneasy about the extent to which abortion is permitted. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that the campaign would be tested in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey and could be extended nationwide if successful. [Newhouse News Service, via Pro-Life Infonet, 28 August] The Roman Catholic Church in the western Indian state of Gujarat has condemned a proposal to introduce a two-child family population control policy. Fr Cedric Prakash, a Catholic spokeman, said that the best way to achieve a reduction in the rate of population growth was to enable women in the least privileged sectors of society to receive an education. [Zenit, 27 August] The governments of France and Germany have proposed an international treaty to ban reproductive human cloning as an offence to human dignity. The two countries have asked Koffi Annan, UN secretary general, to present their proposal at next month's UN general assembly meeting. [New York Times, 22 August] The European parliament has described attempts to distinguish between reproductive and so-called therapeutic cloning, thus diminishing the moral significance of the latter, as "linguistic sleight of hand". Researchers in Italy have suggested that seasonal depression may influence a woman's decision whether to have an abortion. Angelo Cagnacci and Annibale Volpe at the University of Modena analysed data on Italian women collected between 1995 and 1998 and found that the number of abortions and the number of female suicides both peaked in May. They suggested that this was because the same factors which push women to commit suicide might also make them more vulnerable to pressures to have an abortion. [New Scientist, 20 August] Superdrug, the British chain of highstreet chemists' shops, has revealed that the majority of women to have bought the abortifacient Levonelle-2 morning-after pill from its pharmacists since the drug became available without a doctor's prescription at the beginning of the year have been aged 25 to 35. Two thirds of sales have been in the south-east of England. Paul Danon, a spokesman for SPUC, said: "The fact that the 25 to 35 age group are using the morning-after pill goes against the idea that it is for emergency use only." He continued: "An abortion is still an abortion, these pills just do it earlier." [BBC News online, 17 August] An American man with a rare and potentially fatal skin disorder has recovered after receiving a transplant of his own adult stem cells. The man's condition, known as scleromyxedema, was so bad that he could no longer eat, but doctors in Texas have now reported that he is symptom-free. The success provides yet more evidence of the potential of using adult stem cells as an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cells and so-called therapeutic cloning. [Reuters, via Pro-Life Infonet, 17 August] Catholic doctors in Singapore have mounted a prayer vigil against the use of human embryos in research. Singapore presently has no regulations to limit such research and many multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers have been attracted to the country. Dr John Hui, president of the Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore, said that the 300 members were praying for an end to embryo research because "absolute respect should be accorded to the human embryo from the very beginning of life". [Reuters, via Pro-Life Infonet, 16 August] The opposition Christian Democrats in Belgium have vowed to take the issue of euthanasia to the European Court of Human Rights if legislators vote to legalise it. Belgian senators are expected to vote on a measure to legalise euthanasia in the Autumn. [Washington Times, 13 August; via Pro-Life Infonet] The Brook Advisory clinic in Edinburgh, Scotland, is set to split from the UK organisation following a management dispute with the head office in London. Edward Smith, chairman of Brook in Scotland, is asking board members to back his proposals to declare independence and to rebrand and rename Brook in Scotland, which has provided abortion referral services to Scots since the Abortion Act was passed in 1967. The letter to board members states: "The policy in Scotland is that we are vigorously pro-choice, but we do not have a position of being pro-abortion. The stated position of Central Brook in London is pro-abortion." [The Scotsman, 25 August] An IVF clinic in England is reported to have agreed to implant a post-menopausal woman with her brother's child. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates IVF and embryo experimentation in the UK, has agreed to the procedure taking place at the Bridge Clinic in London. A spokesman for Comment on Reproductive Ethics, a pro-life group, criticised the HFEA for authorising the procedure. [Pro-Life Infonet, 26 August] The head of an expert group appointed by the British government has concluded that an unborn child definitely feels pain by 24 weeks' gestation, the legal time-limit for most abortions in Britain. Professor Eve Johnstone, chairman of the Medical Research Council's expert group, said that an unborn child was perhaps aware of pain as early as 20 weeks' gestation and recommended that further research be undertaken into effective pain relief for extremely premature babies. [Daily Telegraph, 28 August] All of the anatomical structures necessary for the appreciation of pain are present in the unborn child before 10 weeks' development.

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